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As Qatar bans beer in stadiums, World Cup sponsor Budweiser touts promotional efforts in other countries

Qatar’s shock decision to ban beer sales in stadiums seemed to leave World Cup sponsor Budweiser scratching their heads on Friday as it acknowledged “circumstances beyond our control”.

Qatar’s brutal overthrow came just two days before the tournament kicked off, reports say inciting a sarcastic and now deleted tweet of “Well that’s embarrassing…” from the Budweiser account.

In a brief statement emailed to MarketWatch on Friday, a spokesperson for Budweiser’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch InBev BUD,
+0.95%
stated that “some of the planned stadium activations cannot move forward due to circumstances beyond our control”.

See also: ‘Well, that’s embarrassing’: Qatar bans sale of beer at World Cup stadiums, surprising sponsor Budweiser

Budweiser’s non-alcoholic Bud Zero will still be available at World Cup stadiums, and the beer will be available at specially designated fan zones and hotels in Qatar. This is the first World Cup organized in the Arab world.

While World Cup stadium sales are a drop in the ocean in terms of Budweiser’s overall revenue, the last-minute ban is the latest flashpoint in a busy World Cup build-up of controversial.

However, the Anheuser-Busch InBev spokesperson pointed to the company’s World Cup-related campaigns outside of Qatar. “As partners of FIFA for more than three decades, we look forward to our FIFA World Cup campaign activations around the world to celebrate football with our consumers,” the spokesperson said.

See: Qatar World Cup controversy means sponsors are walking a tightrope

The company, for example, has partnered with FIFA to organize Fan Festivals in six cities: Dubai, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, London and Seoul.

Budweiser has been a World Cup partner since 1986 and is said to have paid $75 million for his latest sponsorship deal.

Rival Molson Coors Beverage Co. TAP,
+0.92%
is not a World Cup sponsor, so he avoided the drama unfolding in Qatar. Nonetheless, the company is still eyeing a surge in World Cup sales as fans gather across the world to watch the matches. “We expect the timing of this year’s World Cup to be a fairly significant boost to our on-site beer sales across our European operations,” a spokesperson told MarketWatch. “This is especially true in markets like England, where we have the country’s number one beer in Carling and a massive channel position there. And markets like Croatia, where we sponsor the national team, or Serbia, where we have a significant presence.

Related: In Qatar, is it legal to drink alcohol?

Molson-Coors is also targeting America during the World Cup. “In the United States, we have invested in our biggest month of Spanish-language television commercials for Topo Chico Hard Seltzer, which will run for nearly 30 games starting this weekend,” the spokesperson said.

Branding experts have warned that Qatar’s controversial World Cup poses challenges for large companies involved in the event. The plight of migrant workers in Qatar, as well as LGBTQ+ rights in the Gulf State, sparked a backlash even before a ball has been kicked.

FIFA’s list of partners includes American giants Coca-Cola Co KO,
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and Visa Inc. V,
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who will both be involved in the Qatar event. McDonald’s Corp. MCD,
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is also listed as a World Cup sponsor.

See: As Qatar World Cup approaches, Amnesty again urges FIFA to compensate migrant workers

World football governing body FIFA has estimated that more than one million people will attend the 64 World Cup matches. The World Cup final will take place on December 18 at the Lusail Stadium, north of Doha, the capital of Qatar.

The 2018 World Cup in Russia generated nearly $5.4 billion in revenue for FIFA. Qatar set to bring $6.5 billion to FIFA, says sports marketing firm Sporting value.

But the tournament has been mired in controversy. In May, Amnesty International, along with 23 other organisations, wrote a open letter to FIFA President Gianni Infantino asking for a “remedy for the labor abuses behind the 2022 World Cup”.

See: Qatar’s World Cup ambassador calls out homosexuality spiritual harm’

World Cup sponsors Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Anheuser-Busch InBev/Budweiser and Adidas AG ADS,
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ADDYY,
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have supported seeks financial compensation, according to Amnesty.

The death toll among construction workers in Qatar remains in the spotlight, Amnesty International describing thousands of migrant worker deaths since 2010. The deaths cited by Qatar are significantly lower, and the country’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Inheritance called Amnesty’s May letter inaccurate.

“Over the past two decades, Qatar has embarked on an overhaul of its labor system, with significant steps taken to benefit the millions of workers in our country,” a Qatari government official said in a statement. statement emailed to MarketWatch last week.

See: The World Cup will kick off amid Elon Musk’s Twitter chaos, and no one knows what will happen next

The World Cup was awarded to Qatar in 2010, on the same day the 2018 World Cup was awarded to Russia, a decision that also attracted critical on human rights. The awards to Russia and Qatar also sparked a massive investigation by the US Department of Justice that brought down many former FIFA executives.

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